Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fuck it, We're out

Well, it has been a wild year and ~4 months here at KJ-IBT but we must mosey on to greener pastures. Days spent killing time reading about NCAA and Orange Bowl championships will be over at this address, but fear not as we have moved over to to continue to provide mullets, boobs, hot toddys, occasional basketball and football commentary and of course more mullets. To quote Ali G, "This is going to be like 60 Minutes, but just with more sex."

Thank you to those brave few who have been with us since the beginning and be sure to switch your bookmarks to our new address as we obviously won't be posting here anymore. We would also like to thank the guys at Barking Carnival for showing us the gratitude and webspace to be part of their blog network(also featuring Atomic Teeth and The Tortilla Retort). The wrap it up sign is blinking, we'll let Scarface take us out....

Holy Shit

This never really is a figment of your other-wordly imagination. Courtesy of Rock M Nation. At least the girl in the video is pretty hot, that is something right?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nebraska React: Two Games In One

Well, that was a tale of two halves to the fullest extent. In our preview, we highlighted four keys; two with the ball and two when guarding it. The first defensive key was to keep the feet moving. This was a huge failure for the first ten minutes as we looked disinterested, but it was also the first thing we fixed and as big a reason as anything that we were able to fight back and get the win. Secondly, we mentioned the need to box out. Numbers may not always tell the story, but in this case they’re emphatic. First half rebounding: NU 13 – KU 12. Second half rebounding: NU 5 – KU 25. They’re not absolved of blame for their first half effort, but they also deserve credit for coming back and dominating in the second stanza.

Offensively, our first key was to work through the post. In the first half, Cole was 0-1 for 0 points and 0 rebounds. And if memory serves, he touched the ball no more than five total times. Credit Nebraska for flustering him and taking away the angles on entry passes, but that is just pitiful. Quite simply, Nebraska sped them up and they took themselves out of their own offense by being impatient. The second key was to be smart with the ball. 21 turnovers and 6 assists should tell you all you need to know there; not to mention the ridiculous ball security we showed on a couple late possessions letting them make it a tighter ending than it should have been.

So needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it played out exactly how Nebraska had it scripted for a win – get a big early lead, get the crowd hyped up and put the pressure on us to find a way to win an ugly, low-scoring battle. And that’s exactly what we did. For a team this young to come back from 13 down, on the road, with your two stars in foul trouble, says a whole lot about their makeup and fortitude. There have been several wins that said more about our ability to be a good team, but none said more about our ability to win. Long story short, two to three weeks ago we do not win that game. This team is making a lot of progress.

Sherron Collins
Tough to grade him out in this one because aside from a 90 second stretch in the first half and knocking down all his free throws late, he never looked like Sherron. 6-11 for 17 points is nice, though we really needed him to do a bit more in this one and for some reason it wasn’t there. The three turnovers and 0 assists were terrible, but when it came down to it, he kept us in the game in the first half and closed it out in the second – that’s what you need from your star.

Cole Aldrich
Much like the keys above, Cole played two different games each half. After posting goose eggs in the first while picking up two fouls, Cole came back in the second and controlled things for us with 8 points and 8 boards – his first game of the year not hitting double-digit scoring. He was clearly bothered early and he still should have done more in the second, but at least he stepped up when we need him the most. Go figure, tallest guy on the floor plays the smallest team in the country and it’s his first game in single digit scoring and first without a block since Christmas.

Tyshawn Taylor
Like those above, I had a tough time evaluating Tyshawn. His help defense was horrible, though he was pretty good on ball. He came in a grabbed 4 boards. And he did some nice things offensively (6 points & 3 assists), yet he also turned it over 6 times - a couple of which led directly to easy points & took two very ill-advised threes early on in the first half. Not his best game, but does deserve credit for his perimeter defense.

Brady Morningstar
Took 1 bad shot and had 2 bad turnovers. The rest was typical Brady. Knocked down 2 threes (out of 3) on his way to 11 points and came up with 5 boards as well. And of course, his defense was fantastic. The Huskers were 7-24 (29%) from deep; 2 of which came late from Henry and 1 unexpectedly from Dagunduro. Take those out to really analyze our perimeter defense and they were 4-21 (19%). Brady was the primary reason.

Tyrel Reed
His atrocious late turnover aside, Tyrel was great. His defense, especially when he was on Velander was excellent, never allowing a clean look. And as he’s been doing lately, he knocked down two huge threes right as we were trying to separate midway through the second.

Mario Little
The biggest thing to take away from tonight was him playing 30 minutes (previous high was 14). It wasn't quite what we’ve come to expect from him offensively (2-6 for 4 points) and he looked a little indecisive, but he also dished out a couple of assists from the high post and grabbed 7 rebounds (2 offensive). His defense on Dagunduro wasn’t very good at all, but he’s still getting acclimated on that side of the court and isn’t near quick enough on that leg to guard someone that athletic.

Marcus Morris
7 minutes, 5 points and an offensive board. But what he deserves credit for is stepping up and knocking down 3-4 free throws when we needed them most. He’s really struggled there this year and those points were huge, especially at the time.

Travis Releford & Markieff Morris
The unsung heroes of the night. When we weren’t getting anything from the 4 early on Travis came in and in only 6 minutes gave us 3 boards, solid defense and 5 points – 2 of which came in the closing seconds of the half to take some momentum into the locker room. And Markieff came into the second fired up, and gave us 5 points (3-4 from the line), 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 steal, 1 block, 0 turnovers and only 1 foul. Without either of these efforts, we don’t win this game and both players can use this going forward as they showed a lot tonight.

Part of me wants to blame Bill for not having them ready from the start and for the schematic lapses on both ends of the floor early on. But even if all that falls on him (which it shouldn’t), he still pushed enough of the right buttons early on to get them back in the game. And more importantly, he made the necessary adjustments at the break, got his message across and they turned a thirteen point deficit into a 6 point win on the road, against an exceptional defensive team. As ugly as it was to watch, that really was an exceptional win for this young team and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Put it this way..For a team that has trouble on the road, we have three conference road wins; the rest of the North has 2. And our closest Northern competitor went on the road for the second time in the division tonight and, just like the first time, they shit the bed. What was that about good defense? I know that's what comes to mind when I see that a poor shooting K-State team shot 53% and scored 88 points (the third straight game of allowing 86+).

What did you think?

Nebraska Pre-game

As you all know, tonight the Hawks head to Lincoln to take on Doc Sadler's Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Devaney Center. The first part of that sentence may not mean much to you, but the final two words should. Over the series history we have completely dominated the Huskers, much like they have done to us in football. However, whereas we have evened the playing field lately on the gridiron, the games indoors have become much less competitive with us pulverizing them over the last five years – winning 11 straight and 20 of 21 (though that one was an embarrassing loss up there). But Sherron has contributed to that, with Matt Kleinmann having the second most career points against the Huskers – with 8. And even with all that domination of late, we still only take a 16-16 Devaney Center record into this game. Knowing that and of the pesky defense Sadler will have them playing, this will not be an easy game.

Having surely read our mini-preview a few weeks back, you know that Nebraska lacks what is commonly referred to as size. On the season, the only guy above 6'6" that's consistently seen the court is Chris Balham (6'8") – and even he only gets about 10 minutes an outing. Quite frankly, Balham isn't that good. He was solid in high school because of his size and athleticism, but it hasn't yet translated to this level and for the year he accounts for 2 points & 2 boards a night. So without a big to rely on, Doc will usually use a trio of guys down low. The first, and best is Ade Dagunduro (6'5"). Ade is really just an athletic wing – without a shot – that's stuck playing down low, but he will create some matchup problems for us defensively and for the year has come up with about 11 points and 4 boards a game. Freshman Toney McCray (6'6") is their tallest guy playing over 10 minutes – and much like Dagunduro he's horribly out of position defensively and will only score facing up, or driving by a slower big. And lastly, is Ryan Anderson (6'4"), who is a bit of an enigma. He came to them as an outside shooter, but that has gradually deteriorated over time – though his frequency of taking them has not. On the year, he's averaging 6 & 5 to lead the team in rebounding.

(Note: The one caveat to this is if Brian Diaz (6'11") plays tonight, as could happen. Diaz was recently admitted to school after meeting their English speaking requirements and has begun practicing with the team, though he has yet to play and can elect to retain his redshirt in order to preserve himself a full season. Him playing would certainly be a boost, though I'm not sure of the effect it would really have as they've barely played with him and he's likely nowhere near game shape. If he were to play, I'd predict no more than ten minutes and no less than 2 fouls, but I know nothing about this guy, so I won't pretend to.)

Despite who they're guarding, nearly everyone is a backcourt player. Cookie Miller (5'7") is their primary distributor, and he's a decent one. Quick and shifty, Miller racks up over 4 assists per game and takes pretty good care of the ball with a near 2:1 A:TO ratio. It will be important to keep him out of the lane. Steve Harley may be their best all-around guy because of the effort he gives and his quickness with the ball. He only hits 1/3 of his outside shots, so we should give him some space as he's looking to blow by and mix it up on the inside – which is where he gets most of his team leading 12 points and nearly 4 boards. The final two pieces are Sek Henry and Paul Velander. Henry comes up with 9 & 3 and needs to always be defended, but there's not one thing he does very well. Velander, needs to be watched like a hawk. Enter Brady. Both Henry and Anderson will shoot a couple, but Velander is their only real three point threat on a consistent basis. And quite a threat he is, last I checked, leading the nation at over 47% on 104 attempts. For the year, he's shot 9 two-point FGs, 2 of them coming in league play – so it's not a difficult scouting report.

Defensive Keys…

1. Keep the feet moving. Whether it's Brady chasing Velander, Tyshawn trying to stay in front of Harley or whoever we have on Dagunduro, we have to keep them in front. A few of them can hit the three, but only Velander is going to hurt us from out there. The rest simply employ proper spacing and try to get by their man. Our primary advantage in this game is Cole and we can't be putting him at risk of foul trouble by having to defend a tiny driving guard every play. Make this team shoot jump shots and they won't score.

2. Box out. For a team that really doesn't do much of this, we win the rebounding battle more games than I'd think. However, that's usually based on our athleticism and having bigs around the basket. With the Huskers spacing us out and relying on quickness, it will be important to actually get a body on them when the shot goes up or there's a good chance they could beat us to the ball. This isn't a great shooting team and our size should make it tough on them, but too often even when we play good first shot defense, we let teams get an easy one by stealing an extra possession. That shouldn't happen tonight.

Offensive Keys…

1. Work through the post. Cole is our primary advantage, but Mario, the Morris' and even Quintrell have a size advantage as well. They'll be clogging this space, trying to deny entry passes and converging on the catch – but it's still something we need to try and exploit. This means posting hard and on the block from the bigs and getting the passes up where they can do something with it on the catch. Whether this means shooting over the top or kicking out to an open shooter, they need to keep the ball high.

2. Be smart with the ball. This key is two-fold. First, the Bugeaters play very tough, pressure defense. Lately, we've handled that much better and limited our turnovers (save a couple stretches), which has led to some pretty high scoring games. Tonight might not be high scoring, but if we handle the ball well and get it where it needs to be, we have a tremendous advantage on the offensive end. The second part is our shot selection. If we're working through the post properly, we're likely to have a whole lot of open looks from the outside. To start, the big needs to recognize when he has a good look and when he needs to kick it out. From there, guards need to step up and make shots, or swing to the open man, because Nebraska is very good rotating out of their double teams. If they make you prove you can hit it, knock it down. If they close out hard, pump fake and go right by for a closer look, but always be willing to take what they give you and make them pay for their decision.

This is likely going to be a very well contested game that is good for our guys either way. If we utilize our advantage properly, there is no reason we shouldn't come out with a win, but the Huskers shouldn't be underestimated and if we let them slow it to a crawl, they'll just gain more confidence as it goes along. We need to match their intensity from the start, exploit their lack of size and retain focus throughout. This is the kind of win that really separates a team from the pack and is an absolute necessity if they want to win the league. From what I'm told, they do. Rock Chalk!

Happy Mullet Wednesday!

There will be no forgetting Mullet Wednesday this week. And a happy one it is, what with the Jayhawks playing on The Deuce this evening. But until then (6:30 CST), enjoy this fascinating picture on an enormous troll that clearly lives by the credo of "Business in the front. Party in the back." I mean, is there any doubt that he won this court case? Just look how much more sophisticated and prepared he looks than his counterpart with the widow's peak and poneytail. Forget about it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Big XII Rankings: Week 3

So, Travis Ford, you want to play fast and let your skill players get up and down the court and take a lot of shots?  That's all well and good.  In fact, it works really well when you have a team full of great players.  Just ask North Carolina.  But if I could offer one small piece of advice going forward, it would be to try and find a way to not get out-rebounded by a single player.  Seriously: Blake Griffin had 19 boards to 16 for the Cowboys.  He is a great player and you have a small team, but that is pathetic.  Just a thought, so take from it what you will.

1. Oklahoma (20-1, 6-0). Last week was another undefeated one for the Sooners, who are now starting to build a resume for a number 1 seed. Which should tell you all you need to know about the elite teams in college basketball this year and even more about the Big XII – considering they are well separated from the pack at this point. That was a real nice destruction of Baylor, however. My biggest worries for them are that: 1) Austin Johnson can’t continue to shoot 50% from three; and 2) Their lack of depth will either wear on them physically or be a big issue if they ever get into foul trouble in a one-game scenario – you know, like the NCAA tournament. (Previous:1)
This week: Won @ OSU 89-81, Saturday @ Iowa State

2. Texas (14-4, 3-1). Not much has changed since we last discussed the Longhorns, except that they took care of the Aggies in Austin over the weekend. Damion James led the way with 28, Johnson added 15 and it added up to a pretty mediocre 9 point win. I guess it’s a rivalry game, but that win really did nothing for me. A win tomorrow night in Waco, on the other hand, would be a real nice notch on the belt. (2)
This Week: Tuesday @ Baylor, Saturday v. K-State

3. Kansas (15-4, 4-0). Despite allowing Brackins to get 42, the Jayhawks went in to Ames and emerged with a 15 point win. No small feat, considering there is a 100% correlation between that happening and them winning the Big XII. I’m not ready to put them over Texas if for no other reason than experience, because neither has yet to beat a top half team in league play. (4)
This week: Wednesday @ Nebraska, Saturday v. Colorado

4. Baylor (15-4, 3-2). Sure, they flopped in Norman on Saturday, but they also had a nice showing in Manhattan earlier in the week. And while they’re getting killed for the former, they didn’t get much credit for the latter. As I’ve said all year long (not exactly an original thought), at some point the Bears are going to have to play defense if they want to compete for the league this or any other year. So far, they have not. With the week ahead, they better figure it out quickly. (3)
This week: Tuesday v. Texas, Saturday @ Missouri

5. Missouri (17-3, 4-1). Another undefeated week for the Tigers came about with a great win in Stillwater and a much less impressive one over Tech at home. In both, they scored 97 points. However, they allowed 95 and 86. 86 points to Tech, really? But wins are wins and right now Missouri is winning big by making teams play their way. You have to wonder what will happen when they have to get a score or a stop in the half court though, because they’ve never really demonstrated the ability to do either. (6)
This week: Wednesday @ K-State, Saturday v. Baylor

6. Oklahoma State (13-6, 2-3). In a complete reversal from a year ago, they find a way to make every game exciting this season. Unfortunately, for them, they’re losing more than they’re winning. They got a couple bad breaks, first in Waco and then on their home court (worst call ever) and followed that up with a solid road win in Lincoln. And tonight, well, they just couldn’t get over the hump. They feel like a tourney team, but sooner or later they need to start winning some of these and having two home losses already isn’t helping things. (5)
This week: Lost to Oklahoma 89-81, Saturday @ Texas A&M

7. Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4). After an incredibly tough start to league play, they now get to stay home for a week and they absolutely must win both. Right now, this team simply doesn’t have an identity. They’re not great on the perimeter, they’re inconsistent inside and really, they aren’t the defensive team I expected. The post-season is still within their reach, but not unless they figure some things out in short order. (7)
This week: Wednesday v. Tech, Saturday v. OSU

8. Nebraska (12-6, 2-3). Tough week for the Huskers, losing a close one in Norman and then in OT to the Pokes back in Lincoln. The defense and effort are definitely there, but the talent and height are not. Unfortunately, the first two will only get you so far without the others. (8)
This week: Wednesday v. Kansas, Saturday @ Tech

9. K-State (12-7, 1-4). After that horrific collapse in Boulder, I should probably move them down. But then who moves ahead? So they keep this spot by default for now and they’ll have a chance to earn if with a win on Wednesday. (9)
This week: Wednesday v. Missouri, Saturday @ Texas

10. Iowa State (12-7, 1-3). Well, Brackins certainly didn’t disappoint. But then there was everyone else. And that’s likely to be the story for the rest of the year. (10)
This week: Tuesday @ Colorado, Saturday v. Oklahoma

11. Texas Tech (11-8, 1-3). I considered bumping them up for keeping it close in Columbia, but didn’t simply because I think on a neutral court Brackins could beat them. (11)
This week: Wednesday @ A&M, Saturday v. Nebraska

12. Colorado (8-10, 0-4). How do you not close out K-State in overtime, at home, with all the momentum on your side? Because of that incompetence, if their winless streak extends one more game, it just might run through the rest of the season. Seriously. (12)
This week: Tuesday v. Iowa State, Saturday @ Kansas

Good Sign

I was perusing the KC Star this morning and came across this interesting piece. It's a couple days old, but I missed it over the weekend, and even more surprisingly, had never heard of this stat in years prior. In the 12 years since the inception of the Big XII, Kansas has won the league 8 times. This much, we all knew. But what came as news to me is that in every one of those years, Kansas won in Ames. In the four seasons we didn't win the league, we also couldn't win in Ames.

As you all know, the Jayhawks handed the Cyclones a 15 point loss on Saturday in Hilton Coliseum. I like.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Iowa State Post-game

It wasn’t always pretty, but the young Jayhawks emerged from Hilton Coliseum with their second straight road win moving their mark to 4-0 in the Big XII with a trip to Lincoln awaiting. The keys were pretty simple and they were able to ring the bell on all but one. Let’s just get that out of the way first.

1. Make Craig Brackins work. I didn’t expect us to pass this test and we most definitely did not. 11-19 shooting for 42 points and 14 boards. As you may have noticed, 11 makes won’t get you to 42 points so he also made a living at the line hitting 17 of his 21 attempts. The foul disparity* in this one was a disgrace and Brackins was the primary recipient. He really was on fire today though and for that, he deserves a gratuitous tip of the cap, but we didn’t defend him like we need to and I always have to shake my head when one guy shoots three more free throws than the other team combined – especially when that team shot a few of their free throws late due to intentional fouls.

2. Keep Diante Garrett on the perimeter. Passed with flying colors. He got into the lane and got fouled once, but he was frustrated all day and didn’t register a single FG. He did have 4 assists, but he also turned it over four times – and if I remember correctly, I think a few of those assists were basic ball movement passes to Brackins, and he took care of the rest. This game was won on account of our excellent perimeter defense and that all started with how we frustrated Garrett.

3. Keep an eye on the arc. Another bravo. Brackins was 3/5, but his three makes represented half of their total and 1 of them came in the last 2 minutes. Vanderbeken was 2/8, Boozer, Haluska & Peterson each missed their lone attempt, Garrett was 0/3 and Staiger was 1/7 with him being the late make. Just as he’s done all year, Brady trailed him all over the court, slid past screens and never let him get much space. As was on perfect display today, no matter what Brackins did, this team was going to have to hit a lot of threes to beat us and our fantastic perimeter defense prevented that from happening. A job very well done.

Offensively, we didn’t do anything special – but we kept attacking, didn’t turn it over very often and ultimately, just knocked down shots. That last part is becoming quite a theme with this team – and the opposite has been true for their opponents. In all four league games, we’ve shot over 50% while holding our opponent under 40%. That’s a beautiful recipe for winning and the biggest reason we’ve yet to drop a Big XII contest (see below). Factor in us winning the rebounding battle (+8) and no matter what Brackins did, there was just no way we were going to lose this game.

KU 58% KSU 39% (+19)
KU 61% KSU 37% (+24)
KU 51% A&M 33% (+18)
KU 51% ISU 35% (+16)

I would do grades, but really, I think everyone without the last name Morris deserves a gold star today so there’s not much point. Sherron brought us out on fire and even after cooling off, he still ended up with 26 points, 5 assists and 4 boards. Cole was pretty much the opposite, struggling in the first half and taking over the second to finish with another ho-hum 16 & 12 with a couple blocks. Tyshawn didn’t shoot it quite as well as he’d like (3-10), but he played great defense on Garrett and still got to 10 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals. We already talked about Brady’s defense, but he also pitched in 9 points, 3 boards, 3 assists and didn’t turn it over. Similarly, Tyrel played better defense than we’ve become accustomed to and also added an efficient 10 points, 2 boards, an assist and no turnovers. Mario Little also came off the bench to add a nice little spark, giving us 8 points (4-4), a board and a steal in 12 minutes.

And then there’s Quintrell Thomas. As you may remember, I’m a little worried about us retaining Quintrell due to his lack of PT right now and possibly into the future. And on a day when neither Morris could get anything going (combined for 2 points, 6 boards, 2 steals, 5 turnovers & 8 fouls) Quintrell came in and gave us some good minutes. His defense on Brackins wasn’t much better than theirs, but he did pull down 4 big rebounds in his time on the floor. Long story short, it’s very good to see that he’s still working hard enough to deserve some time and that he was ready to contribute when called upon. I remain very optimistic about his ability to help this team out now and in the future and I hope today reaffirmed that to him as well.

We may have to play better to get another win on Wednesday, but this was a very solid road win. Brackins scored over 60% of their total points, but we played excellent defense on everyone else. Perhaps even more impressive was the way in which we scored 82 points – the most they’ve allowed this year. We didn’t always look in sync and we never really got a ton going in transition, but we kept executing, stuck to our game plan and knocked down most of our open looks. To go into that building, against a good defensive team and have no trouble putting up that kind of number is no small feat and deserves plenty of recognition. This team is really coming together as everyone has started settling into their roles and they look ready to compete for another conference title.

* Note: Late in the game, Cameron Lee was inserted to foul 5 times in a minute because at the time Iowa State was shooting the double bonus, while having only been called for 2 fouls in the 18 minutes of the half to that point.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Iowa State Keys to Victory

For a quick scouting report on the Cyclones, see here.

So how does that translate into a Kansas victory tomorrow? Three things need to happen.

1. Make Craig Brackins work. At heart, he's a very skilled big man that will fall in love with his 15 footer if he's getting banged around down low. Unfortunately, we're not really a beat you up kind of team and he has greatly improved his inside game from a year ago. Not only will he beat you facing up, but he can take you off the dribble and even get some work done with his back to the basket. He's as NBA ready as anyone on our roster and unfortunately, is going to be matched up against our least intelligent players(i.e. Morris twins). Don't get me wrong, they'll be able to score some on him too, but as far as defending hard without getting into foul trouble and keeping him off the boards, I'm not overly optimistic.

I anticipate we'll double him some as Cole should be able to help off Hamilton and Thompson without risking too much. What I don't want to see is doubling down from the perimeter and allowing easy kick outs to one of their many shooters and letting one (or more) get on a roll.

2. Keep Diante Garrett on the perimeter. He's by no means a bad outside shooter, but he's not going to kill you from there. And more importantly, if he's out there, he's not drawing help and kicking out to much deadlier shooters. Brackins is unquestionably their best player, but Garrett is who makes the offense work. 11 points, 5 assists and 4 boards is pretty productive from the point guard spot and at 6'4" he has a size advantage on almost every guy he faces.

My guess is we'll start with Tyshawn on him, but I'm not sure that can last. He's shown the ability to shut down scorers before, but he doesn't always get low enough or move his feat well enough to stay in front of a guy like Garrett. If he can, great. If not, we'll reluctantly go with Sherron and just risk the foul trouble. Garrett only shoots 4 FTs a game, so he's not one to constantly draw contact, but if he's on he can get into the lane and then knock 'em down from the stripe.

3. Keep an eye on the arc. Like any mid-major does, the Cyclones love the three ball. 385 of their 984 field goal attempts have been from three – equating to just over 39%. For reference, ours is right at 30%. And a team like Missouri that's designed to shoot a lot of them is just under 33%. So Iowa State loves the three ball – and they go through about 36% of the time so they're not just chucking and hoping for the best. If you leave them open, they'll make you pay.

The primary threat is their German, Lucca Staiger. He's shot 110 of them (82% of his shots) and converted nearly 43% of the time. The obvious defense here is to have Brady chase him around, slip past screens and deny him the ball. He's been able to do it against much better athletes in Budinger and Carter, so I like to think he'll be up to the task. What I worry about is how Tyrel does when Brady is getting a breather. The other starter that can hurt you is Bryan Peterson. He doesn't shoot quite as many (78) and he doesn't convert them as often (35%) – but they still account for over 80% of his total shots. Off the bench, they have Eikmeier (33%), Haluska (35%) and Vanderbeken (40%). The first two are identical and will just run around out there. Vanderbeken is 6'11" and will kind of drift out, but certainly shouldn't be ignored because he can knock them down.

If the Hawks can do these three things defensively, they'll control this game and the Cyclones won't ever be able to get much going on this end of the floor. Offensively, we should expect to go through some lulls and obviously they'll be slowing the pace down on both ends of the floor – probably only sending one or two to the offensive glass so the rest can get back in transition. True, they haven't played a plethora of great teams, but they've only been blown out once (@ Missouri) and even then, the high scoring Tigers only reached 77 points after being held to 29 in the first half. So we're not going to have our way entirely and we'll need to stay within our offense to make sure we're as efficient as possible, because we're not going to see much man-to-man tomorrow.

This means constant movement, good solid (non-moving) screens, finding Cole, and most importantly, getting the ball in the middle of their zone. I'm sure the Cyclones will try to deny Cole touches as everyone does, but we need to make smart entry passes and let him dominate as much as possible. Hamilton may have the size to match up, but he doesn't have the wherewithal and I'd be shocked if they ever had Brackins on him in a man setting. A big part of even getting Cole in position where he can do some damage though is finding the soft spot of the zone. From there, we need to knock down a shot, toss it over to Cole or kick it out to shooters - this is an area that I think suits Mario Little perfectly. The final piece of that puzzle would entail knocking down the shots, which sometimes can be tricky with that Hilton Magic shit they've got going on over there. We've won there 4 straight times, but never by more than 10 points ('05-'06), so this would be a great win for the young Hawks.

Bradley McDougald

Just a quick update here. You may have noticed the snippet in yesterday's links stating that we got a commitment from him and we directed you to his rivals page. However, last night the article was taken down due to privacy issues. But according to the JayhawkSlant moderator, via Rock Chalk Talk, he is still firmly committed. And as you may or may not know, despite him being listed as the 11th best safety prospect nationally he's actually been slotted for offense - reportedly RB.

On that same note DJ Beshears is being projected as a DB instead of WR, as he's listed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quintrell Thomas

Coming in he was touted as a more developed Darnell Jackson. And while that’s still on the table, I can’t shake the feeling that he may be the next Micah Downs, as much as it pertains to Kansas. I don’t mean that as in insult to Quintrell, but in the sense that Downs simply 1) didn’t fit Bill’s mold; & 2) knew he wasn’t unseating Brandon Rush. I personally believe that Quintrell does fit Bill’s style, but the second aspect makes me a little uneasy.

Quintrell came to us as an all-state and all-county player from New Jersey. He was also the MVP of his high school team – one that won the state championship in New Jersey and was ranked #2 nationally by USAToday. So despite being pretty raw, he comes in having been used to not only playing time but the accolades that come with success. This is by no means anything new for a highly touted freshman to have trouble adjusting to the D-I level, but there are other factors at work here. Primarily, personnel.

With any luck we’ll keep Cole around for one more year, but two is pushing it so I don’t look at him as an obstacle as Quintrell would still have at least two years of eligibility remaining. The Morris twins are a different story as both have clearly separated themselves from Quintrell; and as you all know, they’re freshmen as well. Furthermore, neither look like they’ll be bolting anytime soon for the league – maybe after their junior year, but not before. Factor in Thomas Robinson next year – who Self calls the best rebounder he’s ever recruited – and there’s a good chance Quintrell will be looking up at 3 guys his age or younger.

Now, obviously he has the ability & opportunity to unseat everyone I’ve mentioned not named Cole Aldrich. The twins are further along right now and Robinson comes in highly touted, but Bill didn’t recruit Quintrell for nothing. He too came in rated extremely high – and though I put very little stock into those rankings, I mostly agreed with his from what I’d seen. I watched him play on a couple of occasions and each time I saw a guy who hustled on every play, found his way to the ball and attacked the rim. In other words, he was exactly the kind of guy you want on your team even if he had a lot to work on to become a complete player.

So what do you think? Does anyone have any insight on this? Has Quintrell been working hard in practice to reclaim the time he thought he’d be getting? Or is he just being brought along with the thought of really contributing down the road? Or, are my fears legitimate and he’s starting to question if he made the right decision coming all the way from Jersey to the middle of the country, only to end up on the bench? The optimist in me likes to believe he sees the bigger picture, because I think he has the demeanor and skill set to really develop and help out at some point (in fact, I wonder if he shouldn’t be getting more minutes now – but that’s beside the point) either next year or certainly by the time he’s a junior.

Afternoon Hotlinks

It has been out for a little while now, but congratulations to the Women of KU Calender for once again providing about 3 incredibly faptastic young ladies, while the other 9 would not be in the top 20% in bonability at KU.

**Quick update** Rivals is reporting that Kansas landed Bradley McDougald today - a 4 star safety out of Ohio and the eleventh best safety prospect in the nation. Yippee!

Rivals way too early to say top 25 has KU at 16.

Scout's 100 Best Players for '09. Reesing 4th best QB and and #9 overall(high praise indeed.) Only the the 3 Heisman candidates are in front of him at QB. Briscoe 7th best receiver and #77 overall. If he stays healthy, I think the nation will see it differently by the end of the year. How the hell is Decker ahead of him?

Tim Griffin has an article on KU's recruiting needs. Though he missed Springer at LB coming off an injury, he should be our most talented LB(though maybe Wright has something to say about that.) Dudley and Quigley should be in the rotation as well, we can also hope on some help from true frosh Julian Jones or Jacoby Thomas. I am unsure of what Dakota Lewis will add for us though(other than special teams) given his safety size at 6'1" 201 lbs. The article seems to miss the point that hopefully we had addressed most of our shortcomings with our recruiting last year. However, hopefully we are developing depth. Also amazing that he failed to mention our need for DEs and how Mangino is recruiting hard for impact players to step in and play right away.

The Topeka Capitol Journal has two good, in-depth articles centering on the state of KSU athletics and Wefald meddling too much in to the athletics department. It is a must read and I encourage you all to realize just how good we have it as fans of KU. Hope we can find another president who lets Lew be Lew and work his magic.

In other K-State news, they are now 0-4 in conference and let Lacedarius Dunn hit 9 3's last night. Even though the scouting report had recognized him as one of the main cogs in the Baylor offense. From the article:

Dunn finished the first half with four treys. You’d have thought he’d have the Wildcats’ attention. But K-State lost him again in the second half when, once again, he buried three-pointers on three straight possessions.

“I was really surprised,” Dunn said. “They kept the same defense.”

Pretty much every 3-point statistic is down this year in college basketball. Interesting that makes, attempts and percentage were all at an alltime high last year. In case you wanted to know(be honest, you d0) KU is at 17.4 attempts per game, ~6.6 makes per game and is 37.6% from 3-point range. Damn you Connor Teahan, 2 of 16 beyond the arc?

A few random links: Colin Cowherd is an ass. I have never really understood who listens to this guy regularly anyway. I'll catch him from time to time, if I have nothing better to do, but I am not making a point everyday. Pretty weak feud, but I like that they are fighting the good fight and continue to call him out on his douchebaggery.

Michigan hires Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator. A day old, but I still feel it deserves a mention. How does this guy continue to garner the respect to be handed these coushy, big-time jobs? Just amazing, good luck with that RichRod.

I know what you all are thinking, what does Pat Forde think of the Self/Wall issue/non-issue? From his chat:

Will J (Portland, OR): What do you make of the possible minor (recruiting)infraction by Bill Self? I think sometimes, these small allegations a little ridiculous.

SportsNation Pat Forde: Will: I don't think it's ridiculous, no. And I guarantee, neither does John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Ernie Kent or any other coach in the hunt to get John Wall. Self broke a rule that he knew perfectly well and did it in a brazen manner. I hope the NCAA takes a good look at that, and at Kansas' recruitment of Wall.

I know I am not the least bit surprised that he feels this way(he is totally unbiased, MU J-School #1 foeva!!!11!.) Even though much more respected basketball analysts Doug Gottlieb and Gary Parrish have pretty much said "it is nothing."

****UPDATE****: The Big Lead has a post up concerning the "incident."

Happy (belated) Mullet Wednesday!

All those worthless posts yesterday and I didn't provide a single mullet. This whole 4 day week has my all discombobulated and for that, I aplogize. As retribution, I offer you this...thing. Does it have really have a mullet? I think so, but reasonable minds can differ. If your insatiable desire has still not been quenched, please direct your attention here. It was a Happy Mullet Wednesday, indeed, and I hope you enjoyed it even without your weekly pictoral being delivered on time.

About last night...

There were three Big XII games on TV last night and all of them were worth watching for one reason or another.

Baylor 83 K-State 65
This one got away from Frank's team early and they never recovered. Now at 0-4 in the league, they HAVE to win in Boulder Saturday to have any prayer of saving this season. Meanwhile, tip of the cap goes to the Bears. Beating K-State is no grand achievement, but it's a big step toward competing for the league and keeps the pressure on the other favorites to keep winning their road games as well.

Nebraska 61 Oklahoma 72
A big bravo to the Huskers for fighting all the way to the end in this one as it was much closer than the nine point disparity reveals. They led throughout, but in the end they lost Dagunduro to fouls and just couldn't stop Blake Griffin - who wasn't too far off my 30/20 prediction, falling just short with 27 & 18. This should again prove that OU is by no means infallible and also that Nebraska shouldn't be overlooked, even if they have no size whatsoever and lost to Baltimore-Maryland County.

Missouri 97 Oklahoma State 95
I'll never make anyone apologize for a conference road win - especially in GIA - but damn if Missouri didn't do everything possible to lose this one before getting bailed out by the referees. After leading comfortably throughout most of the game, the Tigers completely imploded giving OSU a few chances to tie or win in the last minute. One of those chances, Eaton went in for layup, was fouled/blocked by Missouri - yet the zebra called for a...jump ball? Despite only one hand ever being on the ball and the ball continuously moving in one direction, this excuse for a referee panicked and went with the "safe call." Given the situation, it was, without a doubt the worst call I've seen this season. And I don't say that out of hatred for Missouri. If he really thought they got a hand on it, I would have been fine with him judging it a block and not making a call - he would have been wrong, but it would have made sense. A jump ball did not.

As for the ramifications, OSU has now lost two straight nail-biters and been on the wrong end of questionable calls in both taking them to 1-2 in the league. Meanwhile, the Tigers have won three straight and none meant more than this one. If they can win in Manhattan, they'll enter Februrary no worse than 5-2 with a chance to be 6-1 if they can take care of Baylor at home. Neither one of these teams can do anything in the halfcourt.

Some shit went down outside of the league as well. Wake Forest lost AT HOME to mighty Virginia Tech and proved again that no one in the ACC plays any defense whatsoever. The sooner everyone accepts this, the better. Of more significance to Kansas fans, Northwestern was able to go into the Breslin Center and do what we couldn't - knocking off the Spartans and ending their 11 game winning streak. So that stings a little. As did Arizona blowing their game against ASU. I realize we saw two different teams than the ones that played last night, but it's a shame we weren't able to steal one of those games. Could I be getting a little greedy?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mini-preview: Oklahoma State

After making a serious run at Bill Self, Oklahoma State settled for Travis Ford. And really, I think Ford is a good fit for them. If nothing else, he’s an enormous upgrade from Sean Sutton – the most overwhelmed and under-qualified coach I’ve ever seen. Not only was it good for the Cowboys, but it was good for Sutton as well; another year on the bench just might have killed that guy the way things were going. Back to Ford, he likes to play an up-tempo style and that made him a good fit for the current athletes at OSU; if he can continue recruiting his type of player, he’ll have some success there.

This year, though, they’re going to be a little up and down. They’ve got some real nice parts and five double-digit scorers. Combine that with their pace of play and they’ll be tough for anyone to defend. But defense isn’t really their thing. And only one guy over 6’6” ever sees the floor – and even he doesn’t make his way off the bench very often. So if they’re that small and they aren’t going to guard you, how are they 12-4 and currently 5th in my conference rankings?

They’ve got some guys who can fill it up. Number 1 on that list is James Anderson. He came in as a heralded freshman a year ago and didn’t disappoint, playing over 30 minutes and scoring over 11 points per game. But he’s taken it up a notch this year. He’s currently just shy of 18 points and 6 rebounds per outing and has noticeably improved his outside shot. Whereas last year he was more of an athlete whose shot you needed to respect, he’s become a 46% three-point shooter that can also get to the rim. There’s a reason he’s only been held to single digits once this year.

Anderson is the best scorer, but Obi Muonelo is the best player. After somewhat regressing from his freshman to sophomore years, Muonelo has made a big leap forward this year. For the time being, he’s averaging a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards. And like Anderson, he’s also taken his long-range game up a notch- from 34% a year ago all the way to 44% this year. At 6’5”, he’s going to have a lot of trouble guarding other bigs, but he creates a hell of a match-up problem for his guy as well with his ability to hit the three.

And you can’t mention the Cowboys without talking about Byron Eaton. He really came into his own last year and became this team’s leader and it has continued into this year. Though his scoring has increased, his shooting percentage has taken a dip, especially from three – but his assists are at an all-time high of six per game. He still needs to lose a few pounds and he’d likely see that FG% rise, but Eaton is a solid defender (their only one) and capable of controlling a game.

The last few guys you need to be aware of are: Terrel Harris, Keiton Page, Anthony Brown, Malcoln Kirkland & Marshall Moses. Like those above, Harris has seen his offensive numbers increase under Ford’s system. After scoring 10 points and shooting 27% from three a year ago, Harris is now scoring over 14 and it’s partly due to now making his threes 49% of the time. Keiton Page is their prized in-state recruit and despite being 5’10” 165, he’s pretty solid. He’s not much of a defender, but that doesn’t seem to bother Ford. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he scores 10 a game and he hits 42% of the time from deep. Brown (6’6”) and Kirkland (6’8”) represent the Cowboys’ “size.” They’re each good for 12-15 minutes, 3 points and 3 boards. As you might expect, they’re not exactly ideal forwards for competing in the Big XII. Don’t be surprised if Marshall Moses starts taking some of their minutes. He doesn’t have the yearly stats, but at 6’6” 215 he’s just as capable physically and his ceiling is much higher as evidenced by his 15 & 13 against A&M. That game and the one tonight are the only times I’ve seen much of him, but I like him much more than the other two.

Like last year, Oklahoma State is dangerous but flawed. They just switched deficiencies. Last year they could barely score, but they made you work for your points. This year they’ll give you whatever you want, but they’re going to try and beat you to 100. The more I watch of them, the more I question my ranking them fifth and I don’t see them holding that position for long. Is there a chance Missouri could be the fifth best team in the league? They're certainly making their case right now. Meanwhile, OU continues to under whelm me every time I see them.

Up next: K-State

Mini-preview: Texas Tech

I had every intention of writing a Tech preview similar to all the others. That was, until I realized that I had yet to see them play even a half of basketball this year. I’m not sure how that’s happened as my weeknights are spent watching entirely too much college sports, but if I’ve seen them I effectively blocked it out of my memory. Which is probably for the better.

For the season, they’ve faced up against 4 competent opponents and Colorado. Their four competent opponents were: Pitt, Stanford, Baylor and Texas – they lost all four by: 13, 45, 12, & 22, respectively. In case you were wondering, they did hold off Colorado last night by a score of 63-55. I can’t even imagine how hideous an exhibition that must have been. Their second best win to date came by a measly 3 points over a dismal Wichita State team. And in addition to the four losses mentioned, they’ve found themselves on the wrong end against UTEP, Lamar and TCU. Getting the picture yet?

From a quick glance at the stats, they have 10 guys averaging double-figure minutes and 4 guys with double-figure scoring averages. Roberson is still the only guy on their roster who can create something on offense and he’s proving it by leading them in scoring at 14 and by being the only guy on the team that assists on a regular basis (6/game) – next closest is Voskuil at 2. Speaking of Voskuil, he’s still camping out behind the three-point line with 119 attempts on the year – 55 of them makes, good for 46%. At 6’6” Mike Singletary is next in line in scoring (10.9) and leads them in rebounding with just under 6 a game.

And frankly, that should be plenty on the Red Raiders. I’m not saying Pat Knight won’t get the job done eventually, but right now they couldn’t look worse. They don’t play much defense and really they aren’t very competent on offense either. Quite simply, they just don’t have the players and I can’t envision them winning more than 4 league games this season.

Up next: Oklahoma State

Mini-preview: Iowa State

As I prepared to write this, I began to realize that we (or I) know very little about several Big XII teams at this point in the season. I say that because Iowa State scares me – they've got some nice pieces, they're well coached, and they've even got quality depth. For all these reasons, they were able to beat Oregon State and play Texas to 8 points in Austin. And yet, despite all of these reasons, they've lost to Hawaii, Drake, Iowa, South Dakota State, & were run off the floor by Missouri. If you can explain that, by all means...

More so than any other team in the league, Iowa State is dependent on one player every time out if they're going to compete. In all but two games, Craig Brackins has been in double figures. He came up short against SIU Edwardsville (win) and also against Iowa (16 point loss). We saw plenty of glimpses from him a year ago, but Brackins has clearly elevated his game and is currently working on averages of 18 points and 9 boards. I'll still never understand how such a heralded recruit from California ended up in Ames, but since he did the rest of the league will have to make do. At 6'10" 230 he's already got an NBA body and his game isn't far behind. He has good range out to 16-18 feet, but he shouldn't extend much past that – though he will (attempted a three in all but one game). In addition to his range, he also has some decent post moves and will use his athleticism to take guys off the dribble. He'll be a tough match-up every time out and he's capable of completely taking a game over, but if you make him work for his points he can be frustrated into a poor shooting performance.

Beyond Brackins, they're mostly complimentary, but PG Diante Garrett stands out above the others. Like Brackins, he's young and fits the mold physically (6'4 180) and really has no place being in Ames. The important thing when playing Garret is to cut off his driving lanes. He's not a great outside shooter and, surprisingly, he knows it – so he wants to take you off the dribble and either finish in the lane or dish out to one of his shooters. He's a bit of a do-everything in that he's averaging 11 points, 5 assists and 4 boards and he's capable of taking a game over, but like his teammate he can be frustrated into an inefficient night if you play solid defense on him.

The other three starters are Lucca Staiger, Bryan Peterson and Justin Hamilton. Though his stats aren't gaudy, Peterson is McDermott's third guy and is a poor man's Justin Mason. He'll guard you, he can handle the ball, he gets nearly 5 rebounds a game (at 6'1") and has the ability to hit the three (35%) though it's not his strength and if you can keep him behind the arc you've done your job. Staiger, on the other hand is their marksman. For the year, the German is a shade below 43% and that's on over 6 attempts a game. For comparison, for the entire year he's attempted 24 shots inside the arc and a total of 6 free throws, so this is not the guy to leave by himself behind the arc. In the loss at Drake he was 8/11 so if he gets rolling, watch out. As for Hamilton, there really isn't much to say about him. He's huge for a freshman (6'11" 255) and he hits most of the shots he takes (63%) but still only scores 5 points a game and finds his way to just over 3 boards. He'll start the game, but he'll get replaced early and often.

His most common replacement is Alex Thompson who doesn't bring a lot to the table either. A senior, he entered the season with career averages of about 2 & 2. This season he's enjoyed the fruits of his summer labor to bump those marks up to 3 & 3 and actually, he's seen his minutes get cut down since the start of conference play. The other three you'll see are: Haluska, Eikmeier, & Vanderbeken. The first two are basically the same player and, like Staiger, you should just expect them to come in and start firing from deep – though neither is especially accurate (Eikmeier @ 33%, Haluska @ 35%). And despite being 6'11" you might get the same out of Vanderbeken. In his limited play he actually rebounds well (3.2) and while over half of his attempts have been threes, he hits them at a 40% clip so he shouldn't be left alone.

Opponents have a couple of keys here and they aren't tough to decipher. First and foremost, make Brackins work for his points. If you have the ability to double the post, do that, but if not make sure you're finding a way to make him earn his 18 & 9. Secondly, don't let Garrett get into the lane. He can't beat you from outside, but he can finish in traffic and find the open man if he's getting past the first line of defense. Other than that, don't leave Staiger wide open and play good enough offense to shoot a good percentage and the pieces will fall into place.

Up next: Texas Tech

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Big XII Rankings: Week 2

Pretty often I’ll try and come up with rule changes in sports to make them better (i.e. three point line, instant replay, etc.) and very rarely do I succeed. However, there’s one that occurred twice last night that I’m positive would be for the better, however minor it may be. And it is extremely minor. But it seems to happen every single game and it never seems to make any more sense. In truth, it’s not even a rule; it’s an interpretation.

Nine times out of ten it happens closing out on a three point attempt. The shooter releases the ball and afterwards the defender runs into him or however which we he commits the foul, but the ball has clearly left the shooter’s hands. And yet, when the shot misses, the shooter is awarded three shots. How does this make any sense? Once the ball leaves his hands, he is no longer shooting and he is just like any other player on the court. In essence, he’s really just another rebounder. And yet, for some reason he’s treated differently.

That little rant has nothing to do with my post, but it bear mentioning I think. If you come across someone that can take it up with the rules committee, please bring it to his or her attention. And with that, we’re on to our conference round-up for this week. Not too much has changed since we last discussed this except for the revelation that either: 1) Nebraska is good at home, or 2) KSU and Missouri are tremendously awful on the road.

1. Oklahoma (17-1, 3-0). They’ve had by far the best league season so far by beating who is widely considered the second best team in Texas and winning two road games against decent competition (KSU and A&M). Blake Griffin and Willie Warren continue to impress, but what’s keeping them well above the rest has been the emergence of older brother Taylor, Austin Johnson and even Tony Crocker. They still have no bench whatsoever to speak of, with the lone possible exception of Cade Davis. (Previous: 1)
This week: Wednesday v. Nebraska, Saturday v. Baylor

2. Texas (13-4, 2-1). They haven’t fully impressed yet and they’re still without a point guard, but their offensive strategy switch on Saturday was very intriguing. If they can find a way to hide their deficiencies without sacrificing too much, they could take a step up. I still really like their defense, but I’m not yet convinced they can score against good, or even decent, defensive teams – because honestly, they’ve yet to do as much. (2)
This week: Wednesday v. Texas A&M

3. Baylor (14-3, 2-1). We’ll know a lot more after this week, but I’m starting to question them a bit more. As soon as they lost to South Carolina (and gave up 86 in the process) I knew they were same old Baylor. But after watching them get somewhat handled at A&M (and give up 84) and then struggle to hold off OSU at home (and give up 92) I’ve officially lost hope. They’re still plenty dangerous, but at some point you have to play defense if you want to be taken seriously. For the time being, they do not. (3)
This week: Wednesday @ KSU, Saturday @ Oklahoma

4. Kansas (14-4, 3-0). Since we last spoke eight days ago, the Hawks have won their first three league games and yet, we don’t know a whole lot more than we did then. That’s not to take away from their wins or their progress (both commendable), but it’s just a fact. I’ve seen some positive developments, etc. but nothing has happened that we didn’t see coming and they're still the 11th youngest team in the nation. As with the rest, we’ll know more shortly – possibly as soon as Saturday. (4)
This week: Won v. Texas A&M 73-53, Saturday @ Iowa State

5. Oklahoma State (12-4, 1-1). We still don’t know much, but the win over A&M was good and they really let one get away down in Waco – which, despite hurting their resume, was impressive all the same. I greatly question their defense, but like Baylor (and even Missouri), their offense makes them extremely dangerous when their shots are falling. (5)
This week: Wednesday v. Missouri, Saturday @ Nebraska

6. Missouri (15-3, 2-1). I’m giving them the bump for the time being, but I may regret it as soon as tomorrow. They’ve been extremely impressive in obliterating Colorado & ISU at home, but they were obviously pathetic in Lincoln. Can they get a stop when they need to? Can they score in the half court? Can they beat even a marginal team on the road? Right now the answers are: no, no, & we have no idea. We’ll learn a lot more in the next couple weeks. (7)
This week: Wednesday @ OSU, Saturday v. Texas Tech

7. Texas A&M (15-4, 1-3). They’re probably not as good as their 15-4 overall record, but they’re not as bad as their 1-3 league mark either. They’re currently lacking an offensive identity and aren’t nearly as good on defense as they get credit for, but they’re solid all the same. Presuming they lose Saturday, Turgeon will really need to rally them so as not to let this tough early schedule (and losses) snowball into a bad season, because they have some nice parts and could be a tournament team come March. (6)
This week: Lost @ KU 73-53, Saturday @ Texas

8. Nebraska (12-4, 2-1). It may just be my own stupidity, but I actually think KSU is a better team. But that little thing called a 22 point loss to these Huskers makes it a pretty tough point to argue. Back to the Huskers, I think my assertion that they’re the weirdest team is proving more and more true. How else can you explain their loss to Baltimore-Maryland County, yet they beat a decent Missouri team and run K-State off the court? By the way, a 30-20 from Griffin just might be possible tomorrow night. (9)
This week: Wednesday @ Oklahoma, Saturday v. Oklahoma State

9. Kansas State (11-6, 0-3). Currently in last place all by their lonesome, the Wildcats are in a danger zone. Like I said, I think they could fit in at eighth, but they have somewhat of a must-win tomorrow and an absolute must win this weekend or things could get ugly. And really, the more I see the less I trust them and Big Frank. (8)
This week: Wednesday v. Baylor, Saturday @ Colorado

10. Iowa State (12-6, 1-2). Like many of the other teams near the bottom of this list, they’re dangerous at home and almost irrelevant anywhere else. Brackins is an all-league guy (second or third team) and Garrett has really improved from a year ago, but there isn’t much else. Let’s hope they can’t find any Hilton magic this weekend. (10)
This week: Saturday v. Kansas

11. Texas Tech (10-7, 0-2). At this exact moment, they’re locked in a battle with the only team on this list below them and it’s as riveting as expected with them leading 27-23 at the half. I’m still stunned that they played Pitt so close early on, because every time I’ve seen them they’ve found a way to lower the bar on my already-low expectations. (11)
This week: Right now v. Colorado, Saturday @ Missouri

12. Colorado (8-8, 0-2). I highly doubt this happens, but I won’t be completely shocked if they don’t win another game. I was so unbelievably unimpressed with everyone not named Cory Higgins that I couldn’t believe they were an actual Big XII team. Bzdelik may be the right hire – and I personally think he knows his stuff – but he has a task on his hands there in Boulder. (12)
This week: Right now @ Texas Tech, Saturday v. K-State

Inaugural Rankings (1/12)

New Defensive Line Coach

It was announced today that Kansas named Kerry Locklin the new defensive line coach. Locklin comes to us after 9 seasons as the d-line coach at Fresno State. In his time there, he coached two WAC defensive players of the year and have had 11 total earn all-league honors, 7 of which have been of the first-team variety.

Couple with the Bill Miller hiring, Kansas looks to have their staff positions filled and will look to finalize their recruiting class in the coming weeks. Glad to have you aboard, Kerry.

Update: In other news, Bill Young has returned to the Big XII to help coach his alma mater, the Oklahoma State Sooners. I'd label this as a surprise, but I definitely think this improves the Cowboys for the time being.

Mini-Preview: Texas

Apologies for the delay, but after digesting another weekend of Big XII basketball, we're back to our mini-previews. As you may have noticed, Rick Barnes has turned Texas into one hell of a program. Consider, in the last three years they've lost Boobie Gibson, LaMarcus, Aldridge, PJ Tucker (however ill-advised), Kevin Durant & DJ Augustin early to the draft. Yet again, they sit highly ranked at 13-4 after a tough non-con slate and in contention for the Big XII title. Unfortunately, for them, Barnes didn't see the DJ Augustin defection coming and as a result, he's been left without a point guard. If the second half at Tech was any indication, they may figure things out yet, but ultimately you just can't go where they want to without a competent point guard and he doesn't exist on this year's roster.

However, they're still plenty dangerous on a game by game basis and are definitely Sweet 16 material if not further. As you know by now, their two leaders are Abrams and James. You won't find many (or any) better shooters than Abrams and despite his size he's become a decent defender, but that's where his abilities stop, despite what his father will tell you. He's not a great handler, he can't really create for himself or others and I've yet to see much out of him in regards to leadership. That doesn't mean I don't like him as a player, just that he has certain limitations that he doesn't want to recognize, despite how obvious they may be. James, on the other hand, I can't quite figure out. He's a match-up nightmare and as good a rebounder as you'll find (when he wants to be), but I'm always left feeling like he should be doing more and I get the feeling he's trying to cater his game to the NBA scouts – but really, I have no basis for either of these assumptions. All in all, he's a guy I'd take on my team in a second and the Horns love being able to count on him for 15 and 8 every time out.

The surprise, to some, is Gary Johnson. I call him a surprise because his heart condition prevented us from getting a full look at him a year ago. But anyone who watched him play saw the skill set and effort and knew that once his health issues subsided, he would be a force. I don't love his 47% shooting, but if he could get a little more efficient and still get his 11 & 7 he'd take the next step and he's already a very viable (but under-sized) big man.

The others you'll remember are Mason, Atchley and Pittman. I love everything about Mason (7, 4, 5) and yet, like James, I don't feel like he's doing all he can. He's much more of an all-everything than the PG Barnes wanted him to be and I still can't explain his utter no-show in Norman (0 points on 0 shots, 2 boards, 3 assists), but all in all, he's an excellent defender and effort guy and can score it a little as well – though I don't care for his 43% shooting on only 6 shots a game). Atchley is also a little confusing as he seems to have regressed. Once known as a guy who got a couple more rebounds than he probably should have and always seemed to hit a timely three, he's now been reduced to 21 minutes and is only producing 6 points and 3 boards in that time; and he's only hitting 33% of his threes, down from 42% a year ago. I still think Atchley is a good player, and under-rated defender, but his ability to shoot is what separated him before and until he gets that back, he's nothing special. And finally, the ultimate enigma is Dexter Pittman. Despite his inability to play a ton of minutes, Pittman is probably their most efficient offensive player and certainly their best inside option – but he doesn't fit their offense one bit. In only 13 minutes a game, he's scoring 9 points and grabbing over 4 boards while shooting 59% and yet he barely saw the court against Tech (1 minute) which is probably a sign of things to come as Barnes has become frustrated with trying to run an offense without a point guard and in their new "scheme", Dexter takes up too much space.

The other guys you should know are: Varez Ward, Dogus Balbay, Clint Chapman and Matt Hill. Each bring a little something extra, but none are complete players in any sense. Balbay is their first option here and he is an excellent on ball defender and a pretty good penetrator, but his jump shot deserves exactly zero respect for the time being. Ward has a similar offensive game, but is not nearly the defender of Balbay and may be getting fazed out a bit. Hill & Chapman (to a lesser extent) are both effort guys that don't play usually a ton but give them serviceable bigs, and more importantly, fouls – anything else is a bonus. Hill is clearly the better player and may turn into something more down the road, but for now he's just worth keeping an eye on.

As has become customary, the Horns are good. But like always, they're missing a piece of the pie. Back in '05 it was depth (and a PG). In '06 they were too young. And last year they didn't have enough size, plus it was the year of the Jayhawk. This year it's their lack of a point guard. However, they play much better defense than we've become accustomed to and they're certainly still good enough to contend for the league and do some damage for a week or so in the tournament, but I'd anticipate that being their ceiling for 2009.

Up next: Iowa State

Post-game: Texas A&M

If you want to know what one Aggie from Texas (and even another from Kansas) were thinking during last night's game, you can find it here. (It should be noted that even with some of A&M's late fouls; they were whistled for 17 compared to only 16 for the Hawks. An enormous discrepancy if ever there was one.)

From my perspective, I could not be much happier. Obviously being tied atop the league and without a conference blemish is welcomed, but more importantly, this team is really coming along. Last night was far and away their most complete game of the season and was catalyzed by playing their best defense of the season. Texas A&M is by no means a great team, but they've won on the road and just a few days ago they were within 6 points of the fifth ranked Sooners. So they were plenty capable. They were also plenty experienced (every starter was either a Junior or Senior). And yet we looked vastly superior in every way from the opening tip to the final buzzer. We're clearly a different team in Allen Fieldhouse, but that was a really good win.

Now if we can get two more in our next two tries we'll really be in business. From what I can tell, Bill expected to be about right where we are. Specifically, I think he expected to be 15-3 overall and 3-0 in the league. And all along, he's been looking to these next two games as our indicators. If we can go on the road and take care of lesser (but capable) teams in succession, we'll really have an opportunity to make some noise in the league this year. After that we'll welcome in the Buffs for their yearly thrashing in the Fieldhouse. But then it gets a whole lot tougher with 3 of the next 4 on the road and all in tough environments – Baylor, Missouri and K-State, with a home game against the Pokes mixed in. 4-0 in that stretch isn't completely out of the question, but it's not very likely either; and really, 2-2 would be acceptable – especially with the next two in Allen against Nebraska & Iowa State as both are presumed wins. For those following at home that would put as at 10-2 with trips to Norman and Lubbock remaining, as well as visits from Missouri and Texas. So while that would be a good position, it's all contingent on winning these next two.

I won't be submitting grades for this game as I was pleased with everyone who stepped on the floor. Some may look at Tyrel's 2 points and 1 steal and assume he didn't play well. But while he wasn't knocking down the threes we look to get from him, he was stepping into passing lanes and driving aggressively into the lane to create some offense. Neither one of these things led to much for us, but both are things we haven't seen a lot from him and will be crucial to his development going forward.

And by the way, welcome to the party, Mario Little. 6/6 shooting for 15 points and 4 boards in just 14 minutes. Umm, yes please. Though he looked plenty physical, he just doesn't have the size to guard the four and unfortunately, he's still too slow to guard on the wing. But the mid-range game he displayed last night was a thing of beauty. Obviously we shouldn't expect that kind of shooting every time out, but as he gets healthier and gives us more minutes, he's going to create some very tough match-up problems for a lot of teams.

Quite frankly, Sherron's five turnovers and questionable shot selection late were the only things worth complaining about in this one. Sure, I'd love the Morris' to start knocking down both free throws every once in a while, but for the time being that just isn't going to happen.

Those tiny gaffs aside, we really have little to bemoan. We trapped the post beautifully, completely taking Elonu and even Davis out of the game. Brady single-handedly shut down Josh Carter despite giving up a lot of size and even more athleticism. And we forced 20 turnovers against a much more experienced team, while only turning it over 12 times ourselves against their pressure defense. Really, if you're not extremely happy with everything that went on last night, there's not much pleasing you. Now, as we've said a few times lately, we just need to figure out a way to take this act on the road.

What do you think?

We'll get to the game momentarily, but for now I'd like to request a little reader interaction and get your opinion on Bill Self's supposed recruiting violation that is all the rage recently.

As you all know by now, per his admission, Self attended John Wall's most recent tournament and after one of the games went back to speak with the coach and happened to see Wall as well. Upon seeing him, he told him good game, but that he couldn't speak with him as stipulated by NCAA rules.

Does this bother you?

Should he/KU be punished? Why or why not?

Personally, I wish he wouldn't have done it simply because he knew Allen Vaughan was a reporter (even said hi to him) and this is obviously creating bad press - despite how minor it may seem. However, one could also argue that especially since he knew Vaughan and even acknowledged him, he obviously didn't think what he was doing was too egregious. I'm probably somewhere in between, leaning toward the latter. And since he owned up to it so quickly, reported it to KU and it's obviously minor, I wouldn't expect anything significant to materialize. Then again, with the NCAA, anything is possible as precedent means less than nothing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Colorado React, Texas A&M Pre-Game

In watching yesterday’s game, there were only two things a Kansas fan could bemoan: turnovers and free throws. Those two aspects aside, they were fabulous. They got good shots, they knocked them down and they stayed focused on defense. And it added up to a 17 point win on the road.

We listed three primary keys to victory

1. Dominate the boards. Check. They came up with a +10 margin (31 to 21) and in a game with only 44 missed shots, that’s a pretty sizeable difference. Cole had his usually 10. Brady actually came up with a very surprising 8 after not grabbing a single one against KSU. Markieff, who is becoming a pretty decent rebounder, had 5 in 18 minutes. There was one particular instance where we didn’t box out well and let them get one they shouldn’t, but for most of the day we did a great job.

2. Tempo. Half check. We didn’t dominate it like Missouri did, but we also didn’t try to, nor should we have. I won’t give a full check, because despite their non-pressure defense, we turned it over too much to truly control tempo. But with that said, we definitely had spurts of forcing it and that was plenty to let us play a majority of the second half with a double-digit lead.

3. Stay poised. Big check. Just like our other losses, we came out and got an early lead and quickly let it slip away. But instead of panicking, we stayed calm and focused and took a decent lead into halftime. Then Colorado made a “run” to start the second half and cut it to 2. But again, we didn’t recoil; we simply calmed down, ran our offense and extended the lead back through where we had it, once reaching 21 with about five or six minutes left. Would we have had that same poise in a more hostile environment? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter, because we had it when we needed it and now we have some confidence going forward.

All in all, a great effort in front of a great Jayhawk – not to mention the 6,000 others that made the trip. It wasn’t the toughest place to get our first road win, but it was the best. Confidence is a funny thing with college kids and I think yesterday did a lot to boost this team’s heading forward as they have to first defend their home floor against a better than expected A&M team and then go to Ames & Lincoln – two places that are always tougher to play than the opposition would indicate.

Speaking of the Aggies, if you’ve yet to see them, they’re better than advertised. Thus far in league play they’re a disappointing 1-2. However, both losses are plenty forgivable as the first took place in Stillwater and the second was just yesterday to the prohibitive favorite Sooners – the difference in the latter being as simple as making free throws (OU was 83% while A&M was 61%). And their win isn’t too shabby either, coming in semi-comfortable fashion over a good Baylor team. For a quick synopsis of them, you can see our mini-preview here.

But specifically in reference to tomorrow, we’ll have to play much better than in either of our previous two league wins to emerge victorious. They’re two best players are probably on the perimeter, but they’ll still be the best inside team we’ve seen since East Lansing. As you know, we have had trouble rebounding against some of our better competition and if we don’t get a body on all five Aggies, they’ll make us pay.

1. Match their intensity. We’re a much more skilled team than the Aggies, but we’re not as tough as them. Every guy they put out there is going to try to rough us up and make us uncomfortable. Thus, we need to do the same. And we also need to not let what they do bother us. As expected, they’re a very good defensive team and we’re sure to go through some dry spells on offense. It will be imperative to recognize these stints and bear down on defense so they’re never able to string together big runs. It will be just as imperative to not waste our good defense by giving them easy second chance points – as always, winning the boards will be key.

2. Sherron & Cole. Sherron needs to control the game like he did against Tennessee. He needs to set the tone at both ends of the floor, take care of the ball, get others involved and hit shots. Hey, we don’t ask for much. Cole just needs to post hard, defend smart (so as not to get into foul trouble) and keep converting his touches into points. After yesterday, he’s now shooting over 64% from the floor and 80% from the line, which adds up to a fantastic 1.72 points per shot. If Sherron controls pace and we let Cole not just be efficient but also productive, we’ll be in great shape tomorrow (and any game, for that matter).

3. Take care of the ball. K-State wasn’t bad defensively, but really, they just pressured on the perimeter and had very little waiting once you got past the guards. The same will not be true tomorrow. I wouldn’t expect A&M to zone us, but rather man up and just try and beat our ass. They’ll be as good at this as anyone we’ve seen – how we react very well could be the primary difference between a win and a loss.

**Update** Tyshawn Taylor was just named Big XII Rookie of the Week for the third time this season after two solid performances following his no-show in East Lansing. Something to watch tonight will be how he handles the athletic, aggressive defenders from Texas A&M. If he puts together another great performance, I think we can safely consider him past his freshman wall.

Not too long ago, I considered this game as an easy win. Having watched them a couple more times this past week, I'm no longer quite as confident. Don’t get me wrong, we should still win. For one, I think we’re a better overall team. For another, it’s in the Phog. So if we come to play and handle their pressure and stay true to who we are, we’ll get our third league win. However, if we come up short on any of these things, they’re plenty good to steal one from us on or home court – something that we simply can’t afford if we’re to contend for the conference this season.

Rock Chalk!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pre-game thoughts: Colorado

I planned to start this out talking about how important it will be for Kansas to win on the road tomorrow (which it will) and then I had a revelation. No one has really won on the road yet. Off the top of my head, I could only come up with six road wins by Big XII teams, so I did some rudimentary research and found out that I was short-changing the league – by six. There have been 12 total road wins (over 11 teams) by Big XII members so far this year with one of those having come in league play. Here is the entire list:

Kansas State (OU) - Rice (OU, A&M) - Texas A&M CC (OSU) - Alabama (A&M) - Georgia (MU) - Wazzu (Baylor) - Wisconsin (Texas) - TCU (Nebraska) - Northern Iowa (ISU) - Houston (ISU) - Cleveland State (KSU)

And we wonder why our conference RPI never reflects how good we think we are. Three teams (KU, CU, & Tech) didn’t get a single road win prior to conference play. However, from that list of wins, there are exactly three places where I wouldn’t guarantee a Kansas victory – Wisconsin, Kansas State and possibly Alabama – and all would be more winnable than the two we attempted. Our road games, on the other hand, were at Arizona and Michigan State – not exactly the easiest places in the country to go in and win a game, especially when they’re fired up to be playing the reigning National Champions.

So now I feel a whole lot better about our ability to perform on the road. Perhaps that’s misguided, but I also think it has some legitimacy. Because really, a simple 0-2 mark in those two places is plenty excusable for anyone. It’s the 1-2 neutral court mark that has everyone in frenzy. But does that really concern you? They destroyed a decent Washington team their first time away from the Fieldhouse. A night later they controlled a very good Syracuse team for 38 minutes – missed a couple free throws, had a great player make a play, and ended up losing in overtime. Obviously the UMass loss was inexcusable, but it really seems like more of anomaly than the norm. There’s no denying this team’s 1-4 mark away from the Phog, but unless you believe that the first 78 minutes against UW and ‘Cuse was more likely a fluke than the UMass game, you’ve got nothing to stand on to suggest that this team can’t win away from home.

With all of that said, they do have a bridge to cross. Some of this stuff is much more psychological (especially with young guys) and right now, all they’ve been told is that they can’t win on the road – though I have a hunch Bill hasn’t been perpetuating that message. Which is why I’m ecstatic that this game is in Boulder. Because I do expect them to struggle at times tomorrow, which is when it helps to have better talent at every position on the floor. More specifically, our road struggles have come as a result of poor, confused defense once the other team has made a run. Fortunately, I don’t think this Colorado team has much of a run in them. You may remember from our mini-preview, they pretty much have Higgins and Tomlinson – everyone else is just complimentary – and as good as those two are, even they have trouble with ball security and only Higgins can really create points for himself.


1. Dominate the boards. For the year, against a pretty poor schedule, Colorado has been outrebounded by just over 4 a game. Worse yet, they’re only corralling a mere 29 boards a game, and only 6.5 on the offensive end. Against some of our better opponents we’ve been beaten on the boards and a lot of times wasted good first shot defense by allowing easy second chance points. This should not and cannot be a problem tomorrow if we’re going to win. And just as importantly, we need to learn how to rebound before Monday’s visit from the Aggies – Boulder seems like a great place to practice.

2. Tempo. The Buffs rely entirely on their defense to keep them in games, because they know they can’t keep up on the scoreboard. As you all know, we’re quite the opposite. So of course they’ll be trying to slow things down tomorrow. Much like #1, winning this battle has a two-pronged effect. For one thing, it will make winning this particular game much easier. And secondly, this team needs to learn how to impose its will rather than succumbing to the opposition – pace of play is one of the best ways for this to happen. And with tempo, they need to keep focused on defense. Colorado may not score much (67/game) but they do actually shoot pretty well (48%) and if we're not bearing down or rotating quickly, they'll back-cut the hell out of us & convert those mistakes into easy buckets. Keep the pressure on at both ends of the floor and they'll struggle.

3. Stay poised. As much as I tried to dispel the road worries, it’s undeniable that most teams have trouble keeping their poise on the road. We lost our poise against Syracuse. We lost everything at Arizona. And we definitely didn’t bring out a few things (poise included) for the first half in East Lansing. All three were frustrating, but all three were plenty comprehensible. And lessons should be learned from all three. If nothing else, just keep enough of it to not get flustered and get away from what we do best. Move on offense, drive hard to the hold, DO NOT forget about Cole - he usually has an advantage and that's even more true tomorrow than in most games. Too often we get rattled, get sped up and forget our identity. Keep our poise tomorrow and we’ll come away with our first road win and a renewed level of confidence.

There’s really no way around the fact that Colorado is awful. I mean really awful. Their best performance of the year was a 14 point loss at Stanford. Their worst was a home loss to Montana State. And somewhere in between was the 45 point blowout to Missouri the other night. So losing tomorrow would be inexcusable; maybe not quite as bad as the UMass loss, but right up there. One loss like that can be tolerated, but two is definitely pissing into the wind. This team has goals in mind – some of them lofty- but even the smallest ones require winning games like tomorrow. Hopefully there’s a lot of Jayhawk Blue in Boulder tomorrow as the Hawks go to 2-0 in the league.

Rock Chalk!